Mercedes has been taking full advantage of AMG's tuning capabilities since it took a controlling interest in the brand in 1990, but it's taken until 2016 for the German giant to fully harvest the marketing potential of Affalterbach's work. The release of the GLC 43 4MATIC continues the rollout of less powerful AMG cars that trade on the tuning house's performance credibility, but don't offer the full-fat V8 experience it's famous for.
At the core of AMG's new SUV is the 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 that also serves under the hood of the E43 AMG and the new SLC 43. With 270 kW (367 hp), and 520 Nm (384 lb-ft) of torque available between 2,500 and 4,500 rpm, the GLC 43 handles the 0-100 km/h (62 mph) sprint in 4.9 seconds, exactly the same amount of time it takes the BMW X4 M40i. Coincidence? We think not.
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There's plenty of performance trickery involved in sending 1,845 kg (4,068 lb) to 100 km/h in under five seconds. Thanks to an F1-inspired Nanoslide coating on the cylinder liners, internal components face less resistance for improved efficiency and less wear over the long term, while the engine's spray-guided injection system operates at 200 bar in another effort to improve efficiency.
The GLC 43 apes BMW's quick SUV in more ways than one. Just as BMW has worked hard to make sure the M40i's all-wheel drive system doesn't leave it feeling inert and understeery, Mercedes has tweaked its 4MATIC system to deliver a heavily rear-biased 31/69 front-to-rear torque split.
Also working to deliver the sporty handling its AMG badge promises is the GLC 43's tweaked suspension setup. The four-link front end on the car has been fitted with special steering knuckles and load bearing joints, and Affalterbach's engineers have cranked up the negative camber on both axles for better steering response.
Both axles have also been made stiffer, while Mercedes' air suspension system can be tweaked to deliver a comfortable long-range ride or a stiffer setup when you're keen for sharp handling. If these measures sound familiar it's because they're almost identical to the steps BMW M took to sharpen up its X4 M40i. Can you see a pattern emerging here?
Where the two performance SUVs differ is in their transmissions. Mercedes has fitted its GLC 43 with its own nine-speed automatic gearbox, whereas BMW utilizes an eight-speed ZF torque convertor. Having come under fire for dim-witted, slow changes and an abject refusal to give the driver full control, even in manual paddleshift mode, AMG has tweaked the gearbox programming to deliver faster upshifts in Sport and Sport Plus modes, as well allowing drivers to bash off the rev limiter without shifting up, rather than assuming it knows best and making an upshift automatically.
As well as tweaking the gearbox mapping, putting the car into its sportier modes makes the throttle response more aggressive and increases idle speed for a faster take off – perfect for scaring the kids on the way to soccer practice. The quicker steering response offered up in Sport and Sport Plus modes should also help if terrifying passengers is your goal.
To make sure you GLC stands out in a crowd, Mercedes has reached deep into its box of sporty trim pieces, fitting the MG SUV with 19-inch high-gloss black wheels, a racy quad exhaust system and BITURBO badging on the flanks. Trainspotters will also notice the bigger, 360 mm (14.17 in) front and 320 mm (12.58 in) rear brake discs hiding behind those special wheels. Inside, there's a sports steering wheel and sports seats to differentiate the AMG from garden-variety GLCs.
The GLC 43 4MATIC will debut at the New York Auto Show, with sales to kick off on April 4 this year.